Jeff Jardine: Donations, ideas sought in effort to bring back Christmas decor to downtown Modesto

jjardine@modbee.comJanuary 20, 2014 

    alternate textJeff Jardine
    Title: Local columnist
    Coverage areas: People, issues, the community
    Bio: Jeff Jardine joined The Bee's staff in 1988 after a decade at the Stockton Record. He covered sports before moving into news in 1996 and became the Local Columnist in 2003. He graduated from University of the Pacific in 1979, majoring in communications and history.
    Recent stories written by Jeff
    On Twitter: @jeffjardine57

— From the emails, voice mails and old-fashioned phone calls:

CHRISTMAS LEFTOVERS – If you visited downtown Modesto this past holiday season, other than the McHenry Mansion or except during the Christmas Parade itself, there wasn’t much evidence of Christmas.

Minimal, if any, decorations hailed the season: the boughs and wreaths that once adorned streetlight posts and downtown buildings. The Downtown Improvement District used to decorate, but funding dried up in recent years.

Now, the Modesto Convention & Visitors Bureau wants to bring back the Christmas spirit in 2014 and is embarking on a volunteer campaign to decorate downtown, executive Jennifer Mullen said.

“We’re in the beginning stages, but it would be great to bring back the seasonal spirit,” she said. “Maybe the retro garlands and wreaths. We’d use LED lights because they cost less to run.”

That will take ideas, donations, sponsorships and volunteers, she said. Contact her at (209) 526-5588 or if you’re interested or have thoughts.

Here’s one: Why not tap into the network created by the Love Modesto folks, who assemble every April to clean up and beautify the city?

And I have an idea on how to finance the effort: Fine any store that begins playing Christmas carols before, say, Thanksgiving, and use the funds to pay for the cost of decorating.

Seriously, they started blaring the carols in some stores right around Halloween last fall – so early that by the time the real holiday season arrived, many folks had already, well, tuned them out.

LOVE MODESTO – Speaking of which, this year’s event is scheduled for April 5, and organizers are open to suggestions as they assemble and prioritize their list of potential projects for the day.

“We're looking for more encouragement, people in need, schools, neighborhoods and manual labor projects,” according to organizers. Visit for more information.

DAM LOW WATER LEVELS – Let’s hope that with the major foothills reservoirs at or below 50 percent of their capacities and dropping, and with a snowpack that is a no-pack, the irrigation districts don’t need to rename Lake Don Pedro “Puddle Don Pedro” and New Melones “No Melones.”

DOWN TO SIX – Several weeks ago, I wrote about Janna Hoehne of Hawaii. She took on the enormous task of trying to ensure that all Californians killed in Vietnam are accounted for with photographs to accompany their information on the online Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall site, and the education center expected to break ground next year in Washington, D.C.

She began needing 32 photos of fallen from Stanislaus County, and is now down to only six. She still needs photos of Modestans James R. Lewis, Neal A. Rasmussen, Daniel Ryan and Donald C. Vaughn; Gunther H. Rehling of Oakdale; and Antonio Silva of Westley. If you know family members of any of these men and have access to photos of them, please email them to Hoehne at or contact me using the information at the bottom of this column.

FOUND – A week ago, I wrote about a hit-and-run crash in Turlock that claimed the life of 46-year-old Elizabeth Mancha and injured her 53-year-old male companion, according to the Turlock police. During the chaos of the moment, the couple’s dog, a Lab/collie/shepherd mix named Dolly, took off. The owner’s son contacted The Bee with a plea for people to find Dolly. The animal has been located and reunited with her owner, bringing at least one bit of good to an otherwise tragic event.

IN MEMORIAM – Saddened by the recent passing of Tom Truax after a lengthy battle with cancer. I met Tom when he was running the Society for Handicapped Children and Adults. Following a column I wrote about a quadriplegic from Oakdale whose van had been stolen, Tom arranged for the organization to provide a replacement. Truax took over the DMC Foundation, but then his health problems arose.

Bee columnist Jeff Jardine can be reached at or (209) 578-2383. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJardine57.

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